Park Street's derelict Lyric Theater building, a once-grand Hartford structure that's been allowed to deteriorate almost beyond repair, is poised for resurrection as a public library and regional cultural center. It couldn't happen to a nicer building in a more deserving neighborhood.
Broad-Park Development Corp., armed with a grant from the Survna Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corp., has come up with an $8.5 million renovation plan for the landmark theater at Broad and Park streets. Architect Tai Soo Kim Partners has been working on designs for months. Hartford librarian Louise Blalock has also been involved in the planning.
The city is currently clearing debris from the interior. Finally, the leaky roof has been temporarily repaired to prevent further damage. Hallelujah.
Romulo Samaniego, Broad Park's executive director, envisions the library on the first floor of the three-story structure. It would replace the present storefront branch on Park Street, described as too cramped to accommodate a full range of programs. The new branch would be roomy and have a cafe and bookstore as well.
Ms. Blalock said the library branch will focus on Puerto Rican and Latino history and culture, with Spanish-language materials, music, literature, textiles and artwork.
A performing arts center, artists' studios and spaces for live theater, dance, concerts and films would occupy the second floor of the Lyric, which is ideally suited for this use. The third floor would contain Broad-Park offices to free up its strategically located corner building across the street for some "hot retail," according to Mr. Samaniego.
This is fantastic news on many counts. The Lyric is a gem that could become a magnet for visitors to what has been called New England's Hispanic Main Street, as well as an after-school haven for neighborhood children and adults to learn and socialize in. As for the building, it would have been a shame to let this unique structure fall into total ruin.
Mr. Samaniego said the next step is to raise money for the renovations. Surely the state should consider kicking in for this worthy project, which has so many potential benefits and beneficiaries.
A few years ago, the neighborhood was forced to accept an expansion of the Broad Street Juvenile Detention Center, a 40,000-square-foot brick behemoth that abuts the rear of the Lyric. The addition cost $17 million at the time, twice the estimate for the proposed culture center and library.
The neighborhood deserves support for a first-rate library and cultural center - a youth-friendly resource that encourages constructive activity and education.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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